The country-rock pioneer's greatest tracks…

Though he passed away aged just 26, Gram Parsons didn’t mess around while he was here – a member of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The International Submarine Band, he also found time to make two sublime solo albums and partly invent country-rock as we know it. Here, Uncut present 20 of his best songs… Originally published in our February 2013 issue (Take 189). Words: Graeme Thomson


The Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, 1969/Grievous Angel, 1974

Written with former ISB bandmate Bob Buchanan and debuted by The Byrds at the Grand Ole Opry on March 15, 1968, the beauty of Parsons’ signature song lies in its simple sincerity. The poignancy in the words, voice, aching steel guitar and fiddle – by sessioneers Lloyd Green and John Hartford – evoke almost unbearable nostalgia for a time of remembered innocence. “A lonely song”, said Chris Hillman. “He was a lonely kid.”


Grievous Angel, 1974

Constructed with the precision of a Tin Pan Alley standard and sung almost to himself, “Brass Buttons” was written in the mid-’60s but not recorded until 1973. James Burton weaves empathetic guitar lines over a painfully intimate portrait of Parsons’ mother Avis, an alcoholic who died from cirrhosis in 1965. Is there a more devastating line in his songbook than: “And the sun comes up without her/It just doesn’t know she’s gone”?


3 $1000 WEDDING
Grievous Angel, 1974

The sorry tale of a groom left waiting at the altar, the nine-minute original version – rejected by the Burritos in 1969 – made it explicit that the bride had “passed away”. The released version is more ambiguous. The opening piano figure is deceptively lush, the mood stately, the structure unconventional. And while Parsons’ voice ripples with emotion his writing possesses the cool clarity of a classic American short story.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Page 2
  3. 3. Page 3
  4. 4. Page 4
  5. 5. Page 5
  6. 6. Page 6
  7. 7. Page 7
Page 1 of 7 - Show Full List